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Frequently Asked Questions

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work closely with people of all ages who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). DSPs help people with I/DD achieve the fullest lives possible by empowering them to overcome challenges in areas and activities that would otherwise prevent them from being self-sufficient.

  • What’s the difference between a DSP and a Caregiver or Home Health Aide?

    Caregivers perform tasks for people. DSPs teach people with disabilities how to do things independently.

    The primary role of a DSP is to provide support. This is different from caregiving or providing in-home health care. A caregiver or home health aide will do things for their clients, such as picking out and purchasing groceries. In contrast, DSPs work with the people they’re supporting to help them do things on their own, like choosing their own groceries and paying the cashier.

  • ​In the past, DSPs were trained as caregivers but as the field has evolved, so too has the role of a DSP. Although DSPs and caregivers both assist with activities of daily living the primary role of a DSP is to support people with I/DD to lead self-directed lives.

  • What are the job responsibilities of a DSP?

    Since DSPs focus on providing individualized supports for people with disabilities, the job varies depending on the needs and wants of the person being supported. DSP work can include assistance with education, home care, basic health and hygiene, transportation, housing, family services, vocational training, rehabilitation, or simply helping people integrate into their local community. Depending on the supports needed, DSPs may work in a person’s home, in their family’s home, in a Supported Living residence, at a day habilitation center, or out in the community. These jobs provide rewarding work that benefits people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their communities.

  • What skills do I need to become a Direct Support Professional?

    The most important skill needed in order to be a DSP is a strong sense of empathy. Since DSPs must put the wants and needs of the people they support first, they must be able to connect to and relate to people of all abilities. Other important skills for DSPs include:​

    • An ability to work well in a team

    • Effective communication skills

    • Accountability

    • Patience

    • Excellent interpersonal skills

  • What are the requirements and qualifications to be a Direct Support Professional?

    Qualifications vary from state to state, but in California and at Cypress ILS , the following qualifications apply:

    • DSPs are required to pass a criminal background check

    • High School Diploma or GED

    • Work or life experience in the I/DD field is a plus but not mandatory

    • Upon hire, you must pass a background check and proof of a clean DMV record

    • All job-specific training takes place at Cypress ILS offices or on-site at the individual programs

  • What DSP trainings will I receive at Cypress ILS?

    Cypress ILS prides itself on the quality of our training department which offers a variety of in-person and online trainings in the I/DD field. Topics range from how to support people with I/DD through grief to how to apply person-centered thinking in every aspect of an individual’s life.  Most mandatory trainings can be completed online. They include:​

    • Knowledge, strategies, and skills competency training

    • Putting people first

    • Promoting positive relationships

    • Abuse prevention, incident reporting, and laws and regulations (3 training sessions)

    • Human growth and development

    • Safety and security procedures

    • Choking prevention

  • How can a DSP grow at Cypress ILS?

    Cypress ILS offers a DSP career pathway which empowers DSPs to learn new skills and take on additional competencies moving from DSP 1 to 2 to 3, with DSP as There are also opportunities for DSPs to move into other positions throughout Cypress ILS, including program management, support departments, and clinical fields. 

  • What makes Cypress ILS different from other I/DD agencies?

    Cypress ILS is unique for both its size and scope, our staff support have served countless people with intellectual and developmental disabilities each year. Our size benefits both our employees and the people we support. In addition to providing staff with many opportunities for professional development throughout Cypress ILS and its affiliate agencies

  • Cypress ILS provides services throughout the Bay area which allows us to provide numerous opportunities for people with I/DD and our staff. Additionally, Cypress ILS offers exceptional benefits for staff, including Bonuses, mileage reimbursement, full health dental and vision insurance, generous PTO, Employee Conciege Service, employee discount programs, family legal benefits, and much more. 

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